The Great California Breakaway
California breaking off into the ocean as a result of the “Big One” is science fiction fantasy to Hollywood, credible urban legend to citizens of Los Angeles and San Francisco and, perhaps, the secret hope of many Americans residing on the other side of the Sierras. However, backers of a just filed initiative, “Calexit: The California Independence Plebiscite of 2019,” want a different sort of California breakaway. They envision the state as a “free, sovereign and independent country.” Although the effort began several years ago, secessionists have been bolstered by those suffering Trump Derangement Syndrome – a condition where “alt left” adherents lose their minds over the thought of a Trump presidency.
A spokesman for the movement cites California’s different culture, different set of priorities, and different plans for the future as a justification for breaking away from the rest of the country.
While efforts to establish California as a separate country may be a farfetched idea – the issue of state secession was settled in the small town of Appomattox, Virginia when General Lee surrendered to General Grant, 1865 – it is an interesting mental exercise. What would California be like as an independent nation? Who would govern and what would be the impact on taxpayers? And if California could establish independence, would the break-up end there? Drive anywhere in the Sierra foothills or north of Sacramento and “State of Jefferson” signs are ubiquitous.
If California were an independent country, the precedent would be set for further fracturing, with other regions, where dissatisfaction with the established order is intense, seeking to break away.
Today, California’s political direction is dictated by the upper income elites living in coastal enclaves and Hollywood. Here, the Starbucks generation is consumed with issues like climate change and bathroom access and they are not shy about telling others how to live. This explains why Sacramento seems to be constantly making war on those not part of the coastal, protected class. But travel just 25 miles from the coast and you’ll find a different world. Here, people are concerned about finding a job or keeping the job they have.
After speaking to a group of politically active Californians a few years ago, pollster Scott Rasmussen responded to a question about the size of government saying, the average person does not walk down the street thinking about limited government, they are thinking about how they are going to support their families.
Outside of Malibu, Santa Barbara and the Bay Area, most people are still searching for the answer to the question of how to feed, shelter and clothe their families. If given the option of breaking away from the Prius driving, chardonnay sipping, kale chip nibbling elite, they would likely vote yes.
California will not become an independent nation, but the divide between the coastal and inland areas is real and we are about to experience another clash of these cultures played out on the Sacramento stage.
A special session on transportation, called by Gov. Brown last year, has just concluded without lawmakers imposing new taxes. But when the new Legislature convenes, one with even more pro-tax members elected in November, the top priority will be a significant increase in the gas tax and other auto-related charges. Once again, inland residents who need their cars for work will find themselves pitted against the “Let them drive Teslas” coastal elite.
If the price of fuel heads even higher than it is now, we are bound to see a multitude of working class Californians filling their tanks one last time as they leave the state for a foreign land called America.
Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.